In 2006, at FOB Ghazni in Afghanistan, my fellow platoon members and I managed to purchase, from an out-going unit, a small television and a cable satellite receiver. This may seem like a great luxury but it truly was not when compared to some of the amenities that existed on the viciously large air bases that housed pizza joints, coffee shops and Burger Kings. And during most of our village patrols we often encountered many mud-hut homes equipped with satellite receivers. We considered ourselves lucky, minimally, and following returning from three week long ‘camping trips,’ watching television was fantastically therapeutic.
Of course, however, the channels we received were designated for the television viewers who lived in that area… Afghanistan…, so our station selection was a mish-mash of eastern european ‘call-in strip shows,’ Bollywood, cricket, cricket, and cricket, soccer, soccer and soccer, a few music channels and…. Al-Jazeera.
I had been ‘programmed,’ I believe like many Americans, to view Al-Jazeera as, not a news outlet but as a direct or indirect sponsor of terrorists groups. (I was absolutely naive concerning the natures of ideologies and platitudes and things like that) A strong stigma fermented our platoon hut whenever someone stopped at that channel. “Come on. Put cricket back on,” some one would invariably say. But eventually the stigma wore off, just like an insubstantial ideology. We found ourselves watching Al-Jazeera and collecting from it our informational tid-bits about the world, as if it were CNN or FOX news.
And now it’s 2012. I believe that it will be very interesting to view the 2012 political elections through the lens(s) of foreign news organizations—much more so than through our own hum-drum and vanilla themed domestic news agencies. In 2006, it was incredible to watch the Israel–Hezbollah War as presented by Al-Jazeera, especially when viewed in juxtaposition to BBC, which we also received (we could not determine which party, Israel or Hezbollah, was the aggressor).
It will be equally fascinating to tune in to international viewpoints on our upcoming presidential race: What will the Cubans think? What will the Israeli’s think? What will the Canadians think?
“Come on. Put cricket back on.”